Copying rights | Licensing

- 26 April 2013

Photocopying printed music has long been a tricky subject for teachers, but the new Schools Printed Music Licence (SPML) simplifies the situation for UK teachers, writes Rachel Lindley

Without a licence, reproducing printed music without seeking permission is illegal. Few teachers, however, have never copied materials, whether providing lyric sheets or writing an additional part for an instrument in a different instrument. It is status quo that the Music Publishers Association (MPA) understands, Sarah Osborn, its general manager, commenting on the current practice as ‘time consuming for teachers who don’t know where to go or who to ask. Consequently, there is a lot of illegal activity. The new licence legitimises that current practice.’

In addition to seeking to protect, exploit and collect revenue on rights, a print publisher must sustain a business based on book sales, and smaller print runs generate higher retail prices. Reproduction which replaces print sales consequently contributes to an increased difficulty in creating materials at a price suitable for the market. The large advances paid to acquire exclusive print rights bring with them a need to recoup, and the deals may include painstaking approval processes with composers before any print can go on sale. Publishers’ reluctance to allow the current practice to continue indefinitely is consequently legitimate, as it is both unmonitored and could threaten print sales without generating a commensurate income.

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